Exodus 1:19
And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them.
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(19) The Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women.—This was probably true; but it was not the whole truth. Though the midwives had the courage to disobey the king, they had not “the courage of their convictions,” and were afraid to confess their real motive. So they took refuge in a half truth, and pretended that what really occurred in some cases only was a general occurrence. It is a fact, that in the East parturition is often so short a process that the attendance of a midwife is dispensed with.

1:15-22 The Egyptians tried to destroy Israel by the murder of their children. The enmity that is in the seed of the serpent, against the Seed of the woman, makes men forget all pity. It is plain that the Hebrews were now under an uncommon blessing. And we see that the services done for God's Israel are often repaid in kind. Pharaoh gave orders to drown all the male children of the Hebrews. The enemy who, by Pharaoh, attempted to destroy the church in this its infant state, is busy to stifle the rise of serious reflections in the heart of man. Let those who would escape, be afraid of sinning, and cry directly and fervently to the Lord for assistance.Upon the stools - Literally, "two stones." The word denotes a special seat, such as is represented on monuments of the 18th Dynasty, and is still used by Egyptian midwives. 17. But the midwives feared God—Their faith inspired them with such courage as to risk their lives, by disobeying the mandate of a cruel tyrant; but it was blended with weakness, which made them shrink from speaking the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. They are lively, or, vigorous and active in promoting the birth of their own children; or, like the beasts, which without any help of others bring forth their young. So the Hebrew word signifies; and so there is only a refe of the particle of similitude, which is frequent, as I have noted before.

This might be no lie, as many suppose, but a truth concerning many of them, and they do not affirm it to be so with all. And so it might be, either because their daily and excessive labours joined with the fears of the execution of the king’s command, whereof they seem to have gotten notice, did hasten their birth, as the same causes do commonly in other women; or because they, understanding their danger, would not send for the midwives, but committed themselves to God’s providence, and the care of some of their neighbours present with them. So here was nothing but truth, though they did not speak the whole truth, which they were not obliged to do.

And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women,.... Not so tender, weak, and feeble, nor so ignorant of midwifery, and needed not the assistance of midwives, as the Egyptian women:

for they are lively; or midwives themselves, as Kimchi (k) says the word signifies; and so (l) Symmachus translates the words, "for they are midwives"; or are skilful in the art of midwifery, as Jarchi interprets it; and so the, Vulgate Latin version is, "for they have knowledge of midwifery"; and so could help themselves; or, "for they are as beasts" (m), as animals which need not, nor have the assistance of any in bringing forth their young; and so Jarchi observes, that their Rabbins (n) explain it, they are like to the beasts of the field, who have no need of a midwife; or they were so lively, hale, and strong, as our version, and others, and their infants also, through a more than common blessing of God upon them at this time, that they brought forth children as soon as they were in travail, with scarce any pain or trouble, without the help of others: nor need this seem strange, if what is reported is true, of women in Illyria, Ireland, Italy (o), and other places (p), where it is said women will go aside from their work, or from the table, and bring forth their offspring, and return to their business or meal again; and especially in the eastern and hotter countries, women generally bring forth without much difficulty, and without the use of a midwife (q):

and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them; which doubtless was true in some cases, though not in all, because it is before said, they saved the men children alive; and had it been so at all times, there would have been no proof and evidence of their fearing God, and obeying his commands, rather than the king's; and in some cases not only the strength and liveliness of the Hebrew women, and their fears also, occasioned by the orders of the king, might hasten their births before the midwives could get to them; and they might not choose to send for them, but use their own judgment, and the help of their neighbours, and do without them, knowing what the midwives were charged to do.

(k) Sepher Shorash. "sie alii", "quia obstetrices ipsae", Pagninus, Montanus; so the Syriac version. (l) , Symmachus apud Drusium. (m) In T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 11. 1. Chronicon Mosis, fol. 2. 1. (n) Vid Wagenseil. Sotah, p. 249. & Varro & Gataker in ib. (o) Posidonius apud Strabo. Geograph. l. 3. p. 114. (p) See Harte's History of the Life of Gustavus Adelphus, vol. 1. p. 233. (q) Ludolph. Ethiopic. l. 1. c. 14.

And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew {g} women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them.

(g) Their disobedience in this was lawful, but their deception is evil.

19. Too much cannot be inferred from the midwives’ excuse with regard to the facts in question; but it is at least true that Arabian women are delivered very quickly (Knob., with references to travellers). As to whether the Egyptian women were delivered more slowly, there appears to be no independent evidence.

Verse 19. - They are vigorous. Literally, "they are lively." In the East at the present day a large proportion of the women deliver themselves; and the services of professional accoucheurs are very rarely called in. The excuse of the midwives had thus a basis of fact to rest upon, and was only untrue because it was not the whole truth. Exodus 1:19When questioned upon the matter, the explanation which they gave was, that the Hebrew women were not like the delicate women of Egypt, but were חיות "vigorous" (had much vital energy: Abenezra), so that they gave birth to their children before the midwives arrived. They succeeded in deceiving the king with this reply, as childbirth is remarkably rapid and easy in the case of Arabian women (see Burckhardt, Beduinen, p. 78; Tischendorf, Reise i. p. 108).
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